Tag Archives: Technology

Warm-up Level-up: Estimation 180

I’ve been working on improving my warm-ups and want to blog about them so that I keep doing beneficial things!

Previous Warm-up Level-ups:

In the Beginning

When I first found out about Andrew Stadel’s Estimation 180 activity, I thought it was a great idea and wanted to implement it in my weekly warm-ups. I had two estimations each Friday (so not 180 of them) and this has always been the most popular warm-up ever since I started a weekly routine of these warm-ups. I tried to make the second one related to the first so that students had some ability to make a more educated estimation.

I used to call on students or asked them to shout out their guesses, and proceeded to write all the guesses down on the whiteboard. As many teachers have pointed out, getting the students to say or write down their guess gets them to have “skin in the game” so they’re more invested in the answer. But this was time consuming and every student didn’t always feel comfortable shouting out an estimation. The bigger problem was that people tended to follow the first estimation, reducing the amount of thinking they were doing.


Now I have students go to a link (bit.ly/WHSestimate1 and bit.ly/WHS estimate2) on their Chromebooks and this takes them to a Google Form.


Then I look at the spreadsheet and sort by their estimation so we can quickly see the smallest, largest, and get an idea for the range of the guesses.


I then hide their name by scrolling to the right (I do this before sorting so they don’t see each other’s names). The anonymity helps shy students have the courage to submit an answer knowing they’re not going to be ridiculed for whatever answer, even if they have no clue.


I also try to emphasize and read some of the better “reasoning”, though I give the students 1 minute (via a timer) to make the estimation and explain, so that’s not always the highlight.

After looking at the estimations, I reveal the answer (often by waiting excruciatingly long!). I go back and show the winner(s). The winner gets to have the “rolling chair” for the day and the upcoming week until the next Friday. If there is more than one, I paste their names here and randomly choose one.

In the Future

The thing I would like to do is better emphasize the “explain your reasoning” part, which makes the students think critically. One way I’ve done that is highlighting a few of the reasonings (before revealing the answer) and then after revealing the winner of the chair, I’ll reward those who had good reasoning with candy. Or sometimes I’ve said “the winner must have decent reasoning” so all the “idk” entries couldn’t win. But then there’s the gray area of “What makes good reasoning?”, which is, I suppose, a good discussion that I need to be willing to embrace, even though it makes me a little nervous to have if only because there’s no clear “right answer” to that question as there is in most of math.

I do like how this warm-up moves quickly (if I set a timer, the students know they should open up their Chromebooks before the bell rings to not miss the 1 minute deadline!) and how students are highly motivated to participate. What’s fascinating to me is that in classes where there are one or two students who “don’t care about any of this math” they are very eager and excited to try the estimation.

The other way I want to improve this warm-up is to make it more personal for the students. Andrew Stadel’s stuff is great, but one of the top questions I get is “did you make this video?” and I’m forced to answer “no, one of my math teacher friends[1] made it.” Some of the best warm-ups are ones that connect to the students lives[2] and I’m slowing replacing Andrew’s warm-ups with my own photos and videos. The more I can make it about them and/or me, the better our relationship and the better they’ll learn in the class. These types of warm-ups just beg to be made more personable and this is such a good opportunity for just that!


[1] I’ve met Andrew in person once, so that counts, right?

[2] One of my favorites is taking a photo of a combine harvester at the county fair during the week of the fair as many of our students are highly involved in the county fair.  There was a sign for the price of the harvester and many students exclaim “hey, I saw that sign!” but then struggle to remember the value of the harvester!

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Warm-up Level-up: Visual Patterns

Recently I’ve been working to improve my warm-up routines.  This is how I’ve improved one of my warm-up routines recently and want to blog about it so I remember to keep doing this!


I think it was Fawn Nguyen who pointed out that warm-ups do not need to be related to what you’re teaching for the day. So the warm-up routines is where I am able to do the math practices with students: routines that sometimes touch on what we’re doing, but from a very different perspective.

I have 5 routines:

I create a Google Doc for the week with all of the warm-ups and share it with the students (used to use Google Classroom, now our school uses Schoology). Students know that the first thing to do in class is open their Chromebook[1] and pull up the warm-up.

Visual Patterns

I used to show a visual pattern on the board and I would ask students for the numbers.


We would make a table, talk about patterns we saw in the numbers (not from the pictures), and try to figure out an equation from the numbers. I realized that I didn’t need to have a visual pattern for this, so I included a section titled “observations”. I would encourage students to make as many observations as possible before we moved on to filling out the table or the equation. But we still filled out a table prior to making an equation. Looking back, it was an okay warm-up. It got students noticing and thinking some.

But then I attended a webinar led by Fawn.


Fawn showed a way of talking about the patterns and finding equations by skipping the table. She pointed out that the table, with the numbers, gets in the way of the students seeing the math directly in the pattern. I always thought it was a stepping stone, but it’s more of a stone wall.

She asked the students to find two simple ideas in the pattern: “What is changing?” and “What is staying the same?”. Later you can ask a third idea: “Where are the rectangles?”.

At first I didn’t understand what she meant, but having tried it with my students several times now (every Thursday!), both my students and I are getting the hang of it! I’m trying to think of wording that works better for me and my students because they often will mark the “new stuff” on each image. This leads well to a recursive formula, which we do need to talk about, but it doesn’t give an explicit formula. I might try to ask “What is growing?” rather than “What is changing?”

At first I tried walking around, using my slate to imitate students’ work that I saw. This was better than calling on students to explain their drawings, but it still did not involve me showing off student work, and so students were one step removed from the drawing that was on the board.

Then I realized that, using Schoology (or using Google Drive), I could jump into students’ documents and copy and paste what they sketched at the start of class! I believe that Fawn uses paper for this reason: she can put the students work directly under the document camera. The students responded with excitement: “Hey, that’s my drawing!” and I immediately felt that the task had become more authentic to them. I can still walk around with the slate and mark it up further, primarily labeling their diagram with numbers[2].

Now we check the formulas by substituting in a step number because function notation is so important in Algebra 1, but only after we already have an equation. So I’ve revamped the look of the warm-up.


Another piece of advice from Fawn that I really appreciated is “never move on from a student who can’t answer a question.” Now I keep working with the student, changing my question until the student is able to answer something. This does 2 things: (1) it lets students know that they never get “off the hook” by saying “I don’t know” and (2) it tells my class that every student is capable and every student has something to share.


[1] Don’t have that many computers at your school? I used to print off a paper with all of the warm-ups that would work just as well (better for some warm-ups, in fact!).

[2] I just realized that this is the next thing I need to have students do! I’m really building this airplane while it’s flying–next semester I’ll have new classes and can start the Visual Patterns routine more robustly, as Fawn shared in her webinar.


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How I Run Class Now

I do things very differently than even a few years ago, so I wanted to share how my class is run now that I’ve experimented with a flipped classroom for a few years. I teach both Algebra 1 and Honors Precalculus using these strategies.


  • Flipped classroom with guided notes and PlayPosit within Schoology
  • #VNPS (a.k.a. whiteboards around the room) random grouping for practice
  • Mix of 3Act Lessons and Desmos Activities as discovery lessons when appropriate
  • Warm-ups through a Google document which include:
  • Self-graded quizzes every Friday

Flipped Classroom

I typed up Guided Notes and used Doceri on the iPad to create a short video of me explaining the notes while writing them out. Doceri is awesome (for lots of reasons) in part because I can write out what I want ahead of time and mark “stopping points”. Then when I go to record my voice, I just click “play” to the next stopping point and what I want students to write is written out quickly to match the speed of my voice.

Here’s all my Algebra videos on a Youtube playlist so you can see what I mean.

Then, I put the video into PlayPosit, which allows me to insert questions for the students to respond to. PlayPosit also allows me to see which questions they got right and wrong, how much video they watch, how long it took them to watch that video, and how long it took them to answer each question. There’s even space for them to type an explanation if they get a question wrong, so I know they’re watching and paying attention and thinking about the math, even if they don’t get it yet.

PlayPosit is what our district pays for, but I did all of this in EDPuzzle for free first.

#VNPS (Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces) and Random Grouping for Practice

I have whiteboards on all 4 walls of my room. There are shelves and things, but I would say roughly 60-70% of the wall space is whiteboards where students can write.

When students come into class, I’ve already checked whether they watched the PlayPosit video and put them into random groups if they have done the HW. If they haven’t finished the HW, they sit down and do it, and I make a note to make a phone call home.

The problems are on a document within Schoology (our LMS), but I used to hand out sheets of paper for each group. I have rules like “only one whiteboard marker per group” and “trade off the marker after every question” and “all heads in–everyone is working on every problem”. Of course, I also have Sarah Carter’s awesome “Class Norms” posters up in the room, though I am currently working on improving group work for my younger classes (9th graders).

Self-Graded Quizzes every Friday

I think I got the self-grading idea from Megan Hayes-Golding. I leave a few copies of answer keys at the back of the room and have felt-tipped pens (mine are blue) next to the keys. Students are to leave any pen or pencil at their desk when they go to correct themselves. “Self-grade” is a bit of a misnomer because I really want them to self-correct. I give them a point for doing this process correctly (out of 4 total possible points!) so I show them it’s very important [1]. In my flavor of SBG (Standard Based Grading) students are allowed to retake quizzes as often as they’d like, but they need to demonstrate some practice first.


Overall, my classroom is more chaotic than most, especially for a math teacher, but I think learning is happening lots. And not just learning math, but learning to communicate with others, to teach, to lead, to learn, and to be responsible for your own education.

[1] If students run out of time, I will grade it for them, but most students are able to grade themselves and get instant feedback.


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Students Accessing Resources

This upcoming year our school announced that we had the option of switching to Schoology. The main advantage of this was the idea that “now everything would be in one place: grades, home communication, and students’ work.” However, as I sit down to look at what I do in a class throughout a week, I’m worried it will become “just one more site to visit”. Here’s my quick list of what tasks students do in my class where they need to access the internet.

Task Program/Website
Warm-ups Google Drive
Online Class Activity (Desmos, for example) Can use link
Quizizz Can use link
PlayPosit link & video Can use link
Grades Schoology
Guided Notes Handout in person, Weebly
Page Numbers (Precalculus) On Guided Notes, Weebly
Khan Academy, other Practice Weebly
Class discussions (typed) Schoology
Individual Comments for Ss Schoology (?) or Remind (?)
Photos of Whiteboard activity Freshgrade or Schoology (how?)
Google Form (Surveys) Can use link


I like Schoology because it combines grades and an LMS, which I’ve never had synced before.

However, it’s not optimal for my warm-ups which I have students type into a Google Doc. The quickest way to distribute that is to use Google Classroom and use the “create a copy for each student” feature. So Google Classroom is the best for this daily access. Google Classroom also wins when it comes to projects in Google Slides where I want students to work from a template so they’re not spending excess time trying to figure out which pages they need to include in their project. I could include the Google classroom assignment link in Schoology, but that would be time consuming for me and is it necessary?

But I’ve spent quite some time putting resources on my personal Weebly website: http://mrnewmanswebsite.weebly.com/. Here Precalculus students can access every video for the year, the specific page numbers from the textbook, every Khan Academy exercise link that I think appropriate, and even some “going beyond” resources. It’s also very well organized (I think) and cleaner than Schoology could be, at least when it comes to presenting resources.

Lastly, I got excited when I discovered Freshgrade near the end of the year last year. I didn’t use it, but because students use the whiteboards on the walls of my room so frequently, I want to capture the work they have and save it somewhere, even if I don’t always “count it” for a grade. I think Schoology might be able to do this, but if not, it adds to the number of places students are going to “look for things from my classroom”.

Then there’s the list of 3rd party websites that I want to use, include Desmos activites, Quizizz problem sets, Google Forms, and then individual questions for students where I want class discussion to happen. All of these I can link in Google Classroom or Schoology, but I need to choose one at the start of the year and decide what to use.

My hope is that if I can narrow it down to 2 or 3 locations students are going for work, it can be manageable. I don’t want students to be overwhelmed and I don’t want the technology to be a barrier. I’m trying to use technology only when it makes a class activity faster or helps the class go more in depth than I otherwise could.  Having said that, I think my classroom is nearly to the point where everything except for some assessments are on whiteboards or on the computer.

How many different places do students go to access things in your class?




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Apps in my Teaching Day

Jon Orr posted a podcast/blogpost on 10 Tools in my Teaching Day and I thought it was a fascinating way to reflect on “What apps/websites/tools do I use in my day?” So here goes!

Image result for pebble time

Alarms on Pebble Time

Even though Pebble is out of business, you can still purchase them online. I use my smartwatch to wake up with a vibration alarm so I don’t wake up my wife, but I also have alarms set throughout the day and week to remind me of things that I otherwise wouldn’t: 10 minutes left in each class, reminder to go to my hall duty once a day, remember to call “Grandpa Fred” on Sundays. Even when my phone is off or not accessible, these silent alarms are always on me, and the watch’s battery still lasts about 3 days before needing a charge (I’ve had it for 2 years!).

Image result for if this then that


I don’t check the weather every day, but I do bike to school, so I need to know whether it’s going to rain later in the day (on my bike ride home!), so I can take a car instead. If This Then that is a versatile app, so it’s hard to describe all the features it can do, but I use it to alert me when it’s going to rain.


I like to keep track of how long it takes me to bike the 1.5 miles to school and back. Strava is part run/bike tracker, part social media, so I can keep up with the other teachers who use it from my last school in New Mexico, where I used to teach.

Google Keep

Without checklists, I would forget tons of things. I use Google Keep at 3 main times: when I get to school, after school, and after school on Friday (end of week stuff). Once I finish the checklist, I select the “uncheck all items” button and I’m good to go for the next time!

Google Drive/Google Classroom

This is where I create all the presentations for each day, student warm-ups, quizzes, tests, and classwork that I don’t steal from somewhere else.

1-Click Timer

This handy Chrome extension is exactly what it says. I can quickly start warm-ups and since it’s a pop-up in the corner, it doesn’t obscure the presentation if I have a website shown.

Image result for desmos logo


The free online graphing calculator that revolutionized the way I teach math. It is a graphing calculator but it’s also so much more than a graphing calculator.


This app can be set up to remind you to pray throughout the day. Then, it can give you a list of topics to pray for. Have decided that 4 topics can be done in a few minutes, and it’s a good reminder to stop whatever I’m doing and pray. Often I think “I don’t have time to pray” but I need to be reminded that God’s in charge of it all, and so the real thing is that I don’t have time not to pray. I put my students in there at the start of the year and it helps remind me what’s most important in teaching along with helping me learn the students’ names early on.

Scripture Typer

An app that my brother showed me that helps when memorizing scripture. It has 3 “stages”: typing out the memory verse, typing it out with every other word missing, and then typing it from scratch. I find the three stages helps me when initially learning the verses. Then, when you have “mastered” a verse, it will pop up at intervals so you keep it mastered. If you get it right on the first try, it increases the interval slightly. I wish I could find research for my math students as to what the optimal interval and increase in interval is so that I could plan spiral reviews for my students, but the app does a great job helping me memorize scripture.


This handy Android app functions as a check-list of things that I want done each day: habits that I want to build. Things like exercise 3 times a week, read my Bible daily, blog on this website, or spend time with each of my children each night before they go to bed. I’m able to see how well I’m doing at each of these things over the course of time.

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[DITL] 5/22/17

6:00 am

Woke up at my usual time. It feels like it should be the end of the year, but we have 3 weeks of school left, so I’ve got to figure out how to motivate myself in order to motivate my students to try through to the end. This week is exam week at my last school, so it would already be the end of the year if we had stayed in New Mexico.


7:52 am

Students start coming into class and the morning lesson from admin is to vote on rising 6th and 7th grade students. It does not make a lot of sense for my 8th graders to care about the election, but they care more than I thought the would, so I appreciate their efforts.


8:40 am, 1st & 2nd period, planning

We have a diversity training. I already heard this from my “First year teacher” course, though it is new to most of my colleagues. The best time in the 45 minute session is 3 minutes where they ask us to share something meaningful with our colleagues. I wish we could have more time set aside for just that because we can learn so much more from personal stories.


10:20 am, 3rd period, Merit 8th Grade Math

The students are unfocused. There are always 5 different conversations going on at once and they are unable to stay quiet for more than 2 minutes at a time to listen to my explanation of what we’re doing today. It’s become my roughest period by far. A few students have their phones out and I struggle to ask them to put them away. After five minutes some of the phones return. I know at least one student is having a bad enough day that he might go off if I take his phone again. I decide to ignore him and his phone this time. [1]


In this class we did a “hand squeeze” activity, where students stood in a circle and we timed how long it took them to squeeze each other’s hands all the way around the circle. The goal was to create (in Desmos) a scatterplot with a strong positive linear correlation: the more people in the circle, the longer it should take to go around. Here’s a Desmos graph to go along with some of our data (I couldn’t convince everyone in the class to stand up and be willing to hold hands).


11:10 am, 4th period, Honors 8th Grade Math

This used to be one of the class I had the hardest time getting them to focus, but now they’ve done pretty well for the last several months. Phone calls home to this group really help and I’m staying in daily contact home with at least one of the students.


In this class we’re doing our end of year stats project. This involves finding two things to compare to each other via a scatterplot and creating a few questions for their classmates to answer.


12:00 pm, 5th period, Algebra

My Algebra students took their PARCC test (part 1 of 3) this morning and are taking part 2 in the afternoon. Since this is during their lunch time, they had to have their lunch during 5th period, so they just hung out and ate in my room. One student said “this is the best class of the year!”


12:50 pm, Lunch

Three students came into my room for “tutoring”–however, for these three regulars, they just hang out in my room. We got to have a discussion about various topics, such as religion (since they ask), friends, and family.


1:23 pm, 6th period, Honors 8th Grade Math

Just as before, we’re doing the stats project. I walk around the room, but this class has a harder time figuring out what they’re doing.


2:13 pm, 7th period, 8th Grade Math

This class is not as loud as 3rd period and we get much farther in the “Hand Squeeze” assignment. We just need to discuss the conclusion, but they’re ready to start the next assignment!



The end of the day bell rings and I go through my after school routine. Here’s my current checklist:


The email addresses are students that I contact daily, blurred out for obvious reasons.

I get to go home about 2 hours after the students are done. Tonight I need to grade Friday’s quizzes, figure out lesson plans for tomorrow’s Merit classes, and sign up students for tutoring who didn’t take the quiz on Friday.

Just 13 more days to go!


[1] I ended up making a positive phone call after school. I hope to hold it up to him tomorrow and point out that I could have called about his phone being out, but I want him to succeed. I need to keep trying to build relationships even if we’re in the last 3 weeks of school. This also helps me to feel that I haven’t given up on him: I ignored his lack of effort in class, but didn’t ignore it after school and won’t tolerate more than one day of being angry as an excuse.

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Post-Quiz Discussion

Every Friday I give a quiz [1]. I know some teachers are against that, but it helps establish a routine, students expect it (no more “what, there’s a quiz today?!?”), and it gets my class into a rhythm so I know I need to cut out unnecessary fluff if we’re working too long on one topic[2].

Anyway, I’ve always struggled with what to do after a quiz. Last week I tried something new that I think I’m going to do more often next year. After they turned in their papers, I gave students the quiz on Google Classroom [3]. But this time the whole class is sharing the same quiz. So students who did well on the quiz can jump on and start answer the questions. Students who didn’t do so well can jump on and ask questions (or just watch to see what the answers are… including work shown.) The whole class does a collaborative effort (ideally).

Students seemed to like the idea. I don’t know if it’s the novelty for most of them, but several definitely liked the immediate feedback this offered. Of course we could just go over the quiz, but this is so much more interactive (and immediate). Also, I can keep an eye out for misconceptions that the whole class has on certain topics.

There was some distraction, but fortunately in Google Classroom I can see all edits, so I warned students not to put anything on there that they would be ashamed to show their parents.

2nd Period Chemistry:

4th Period Chemistry:

What do you do in your post-quiz time when students finish at different rates?

[1] Right now this is only in Chemistry, but I’m hoping to do at least some sort of adaptive checkup in Precal and Physics next year.

[2] Some topics take longer, but I hope that the flexibility in adjusting labs allows me to be adaptive and yet rigid at the same time.

[3] If you don’t have Google classroom, you can still share the quiz with students by collecting their e-mail addresses and sharing the document with everyone in the class.


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